Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mastering CSL: Coffee As A Second Language

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published October 21, 2010] © 2010

This year I’ve made it my goal to master CSL – Coffee as a Second Language.

I don’t have to tell you what a social disadvantage it has been to live in a place with so many good coffee houses and not speak Coffee.

Of course, the main reason I haven’t learned it is that I don’t drink coffee. I love the taste and aroma but the family caffeine sensitivity has my hands shaking before I’ve taken a second sip. However, as I am often reminded, you can get decaf versions of pretty much everything the menu. Although a triple shot espresso decaf would probably defeat the purpose.

While I certainly agree with my friends that coffee houses are an ideal place to meet, I’ve never frequented them enough to really master spoken Coffee. That’s because the menu scares the daylights out of me. The French may not be very tolerant of people who massacre their language but they sound like Barney the happy dinosaur compared to coffee drinkers stuck in line behind someone who does not speak Coffee. The caffeine fiends are ten minutes past needing a fix, the tremors have set in, and anyone who holds them up is in critical danger of being fed into the bean grinder.

Would that I was kidding.

Attempting to avoid becoming a new instant coffee drink if the clientele behind me seems unusually hostile, I tend to smile brightly at the barista and chirp, “I’ll have what that person just had in a decaf.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t keep them from asking you more questions. Lots more questions. The milk options alone are terrifying. In fact, I think that if you factored all the possible combinations and permutations of coffee drinks, the number would be in the bazillions.

But the problem with spoken Coffee is that it is a language with an unbelievable number of dialects. For example, there’s the Frappuccino-Macchiato dialect from the Sucrose region of Italy. Only serious linguists and/or pre-diabetics really understand it.

And just when Coffee was already an incredibly complicated language, they’ve thrown in Fair Trade, i.e. that the farmers who grew the beans were paid a fair price. Was I born yesterday? I’m sure there are standards for this but the cynic in me still wants to see sworn testimonials from the farmers. Better yet, can I call them in person?

And of course, we now have the option of “organic”. I kind of hate it when they bring up that word because it immediately raises the specter of what’s in the non-organic. Should we be thinking egg farms in Iowa? One thing is clear: if it’s fair traded and organic, we’re going to pay more for it. So I’d just like to know for sure those South American coffee farmers have 401ks and I’m not drinking chicken doots.

But just when you think you’ve miraculously gotten out of the ordering process alive, you discover that when your drink is ready, they sometimes don’t call you by name but by what you ordered. The short hand name of what you ordered. I have no idea what I ordered. I just hope it really IS decaf. And preferably has whipped cream on it. I have let my coffee order get stone cold for fear of taking someone else’s drink by mistake. Because if you think coffee drinkers are cranky being in line behind a non-Coffee speaker, don’t even think what would happen if you accidentally took their vente grande small cap no foam dolce.

My friend Amy’s mother, Toni, has been lobbying her local Starbucks to introduce a new drink, the mocha valium vodka latte. Now this is a drink I could get my head around. I wouldn’t even need this drink in a decaf. A nice simultaneous upper and downer, it just falls off your tongue when you say it. Of course, you might fall on your head after you drink it. But it has the added advantage that within minutes, you don’t care if you speak Coffee or not.

Yielding To The Temptation To Ignore Traffic Signs

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published October 7, 2010] © 2010

Three years ago, La Jolla’s southern suburb of Bird Rock completed a series of five roundabouts designed to calm traffic and even more, to increase the survival rate for crossing La Jolla Boulevard.

The latter has definitely been achieved. Businesses on the east and west sides of the street are no longer separated by an asphalt obstacle course of kamikaze motorists. Like never before, Bird Rock has cohesed into a happy little village with attractive new landscaping and blinky crosswalks so eager to serve that they frequently blink even when no one is crossing. You have to love the crosswalks’ enthusiasm although they could probably use a little voltaic Valium.

The traffic calming aspect has been a little more problematical. In fairness, Americans are not all that familiar with roundabouts as evidenced by the pickup trucks that routinely drove over the center of them until the landscaping was planted. The biggest problem with the traffic calming aspect, however, is a basic failure of understanding of the word “yield”, one of those adorably antiquarian traffic concepts that disappeared from usage around the same time as “signaling”.

What the Yield signs are supposed to indicate, of course, is that vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way and you have to (all together now) YIELD. It’s counterintuitive for some of us to believe that a car turning left in front of us has the right of way. And for others, over their cold dead body are they conceding the right of way no matter what the d**n sign says.

The Bird Rock roundabouts are actually roundaboutlets, embryonic versions of the big scary British variety, so you have about .2 nanoseconds to figure out if the vehicle already in the roundabout is coming around it or proceeding straight ahead.

There are some who would conclude that one should SLOW DOWN just in case one is going to have to YIELD. It would, of course, help if the vehicle in the roundabout would signal its intention of going left but that is somewhere in the same statistical likelihood as SLOW DOWN.

The whole excitement level ratchets up even a few more notches with the advent of summer visitors who have no experience of roundaboutlets and/or who come from places where they don’t yield either.

Now I can understand why Bird Rock would not want to despoil the new found esthetics of the community with excessive signage. But the Yield thing remains a problem. If it were up to me, I would implement a crash (you should excuse the expression) course, Roundabouts 101, a series of Burma Shave-inspired educational signs starting at Nautilus Street. For example:



Playa Del Norte: NO, WE’RE SERIOUS.



Kolmar: WHY?









Forward: NOPE, IT WAS YOU.




*Getting To Know The REAL College Applicant

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published September 23, 2010] © 2010

Friends whose son has already started on his college applications were bemoaning the process to us, knowing we have lived through it ourselves. It’s been a few years since our sons applied and I was curious to know if the essay topics had improved in the interim.

In a word: no.

Colleges always maintain that they want to know the “real” candidate but then hit them up with eye-glazing topics that are pretty much guaranteed to produce prose like "Team sports has taught me self-discipline and how to work with others" and "My trip to Europe made me realize that we are all one."

I remember my younger son, Henri, who applied to a lot of essay-intensive schools, approaching his step-father, a reactor physics graduate from Cal Tech, hoping someone of Olof’s erudite background could provide some retrospective insights into "What do you hope to achieve in your four years of college?" My husband pondered the question for a moment before offering, "Grow facial hair and get laid?" Henri perked up immediately at the prospect. But didn’t dare use it.

If college admissions officers want to get to know the “real” candidate, they’ve got to ask the right questions. Topics that kids can really become impassioned about and which might also give college essay readers a reason to live. Here’s a few I might suggest:

(1) Analyze the debris field on your bedroom floor. How does it reveal the real you?
(2) Agree or disagree: There is absolutely nothing new anyone can say about The Great Gatsby.
(3) Why texting, tweeting and other electronic communication should be allowed during class time, especially if the class is like, totally lame.
(4) My night in a Tijuana jail: A lesson in diversity.
(5) What things do you do that drive your parents craziest? Describe how you've fine-tuned them over the years.
(6) Relate an incident where you were blamed for something that was so not your fault.
(7) Influences that shaped your life: were there any?
(8) Describe an evening with your favorite non-porn-star fictional character.
(9) The top three excuses parents are likely to believe.
(10) In 250 words or less, agree or disagree with this statement: people over 40 should not be allowed on Facebook.
(11) Curfew: why I am so over it.
(12) How ADHD explains my transcript, and that felony egging incident.
(13) College: Is it over-rated?
(14) Legalizing marijuana: like totally overdue, man.
(15) What are the nicknames you and your siblings have for each other when no grownups are around? Regale us with the symbolism behind them.
(16) How to survive a totally bad hair day.
(17) iPhone apps I’d REALLY like to see.
(18) Why I will totally be a better parent than mine are.
(19) Party buses: the best thing to ever happen to under-age drinking.
(20) Pole dancing as a varsity sport? Make your best case.
(21) Should watching the movie be an acceptable alternative to reading the assigned book so long as the ending is kind of the same?
(22) My favorite pharmaceutical and why.
(23) Compare and contrast your favorite awards shows.
(24 ) Like, whatever.
(25) Despite what they say, my parents really WERE born yesterday.

Olof, however, points out that like everyone else, college admission folks have to be careful what they wish for. Because if they ask any of these questions, they will surely get it.

*The Cat Who Came In From The Cold

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published September 9, 2010] © 2010

Not long ago we were invited to the 10th birthday party of a favorite neighbor. Party hats, champagne, and elegant hors d’oeuvres were in evidence for the adults, and the guest of honor gamely posed for the requisite cake photo. But most of the time he was curled up in a ball under the coffee table, nose buried in a new catnip toy in abject feline heaven.

We’ve actually known Tiger, né Caramel, from his earliest kittenhood when he used to hang out under our bird feeders hoping to get lucky. It was with no little horror a year or so later that I discovered his owners had moved and left him behind. Tracked down, they said they “thought” someone else might also be feeding him so they’d felt OK departing without him.

We couldn’t keep him as our younger son is anaphylatically allergic to cats but Caramel showed up like clockwork at our doorstep every night meowing piteously until I came out to the front porch with a can of people tuna. Meanwhile I posted his photo on “Do you know me?” fliers around the neighborhood.

A day or so later, two women called. “Yes, that’s our cat Tiger” they said. “He adopted us a few months ago but disappears for days at a time.” I could believe it.

When Tiger/Caramel showed up at my doorstep that night doing his starving homeless cat act, I stared him down and said, “I’m on to you, you kitty con artist. Just how many homes do you have???”

Several, as it turned out. Once the tuna train ended at my house, he began frequenting the master bed of another neighbor, Bob, whose French doors were often open. Bob had no interest in a cat but Tiger was not to be dissuaded.

I connected Bob up with the two ladies on the next street. As often as Bob returned Tiger to their house, Tiger would be back to Bob’s an hour later. The two women were distraught at Tiger’s rejection and finally concluded there was only one thing to be done.

They called in the cat whisperer.

The kitty psychic ($150 hour) closeted herself with her furry client for a private consultation. Tiger, the cat shrink reported when she emerged, was distraught that there was now another male cat on the women’s block who was more dominant than he. His male ego bruised, he had sought refuge at Bob’s where there was less competition, not to mention gratuitous male bonding. (The cat whisperer didn’t specifically mention it, but I’m sure Tiger told her that he, like Bob, was a rabid Yankees fan.) While Tiger didn’t want to appear ungrateful for the ladies’ many kindnesses, at this stage in his life, he needed a more guy-centric environment.

Well, said Bob, who didn’t want to admit just how attached he and his girlfriend were to the cat at this point, if it’s really what Tiger wants…

Easter Sunday some eight years ago was to be the official changeover day. Bob made a nice brunch and the two tearful ladies showed up, Tiger in tow, for the official handover of distemper shot records. They surveyed Tiger’s new home, and approved. Food was served. But when it came time for the relinquishment to become final, the ladies had a sudden change of heart. What if the Feline Freud had misunderstood Tiger’s wishes?

Tiger was put on the phone during an emergency call to the cat psychic whose skills fortunately included aural communication over optical fiber. The ladies were assured that Tiger had re-asserted his wishes to live with Bob.

And that was that. Bob, fairly clear that he was now the proud owner of a kitty bigamist, soon after decided that Tiger’s cat-about-town days were over. Tiger became a quite content house cat. He made a break for it once but was back as soon as his sofa-softened paws hit cold earth. Whatever memories he has of his earlier days weren’t obvious at his tenth birthday gig as he positively exuded marmalade tabby happiness. Or maybe it was just the catnip talking.

Looking For A Cure For Medical Billing

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published August 26, 2010] © 2010

This is the story of a woman who tried to be an informed medical consumer. And failed.

My inspiration was an MSN article last year about people walking out of emergency rooms fearing they would get bills beyond their ability to pay. Which, of course, shows that they have excellent reality testing. It specifically profiled a young temporarily-uninsured magazine editor who had been knocked unconscious in a bicycle accident, and who asked for an estimate of charges. The ER physician said “Do I look like an accountant?” upon which the guy left, untreated.

Probably the smartest move he ever made. Unless, of course, he ended up dying of a subdural hematoma three days later in which case that pricey but statistically unnecessary MRI would have been worth it.

But really: who in their right mind would willingly agree to a financial obligation for which they have no idea of the ultimate cost and likely no ability to pay? Well, maybe thirty million people who bought homes prior to the mortgage meltdown, but look how well THAT turned out.

Having been clobbered by a drunk driver three years ago, I have been a regular guest of orthopedists and physical therapy people. It continues to baffle me that doctors, unlike any other profession, seem to have no clue as to what their services cost. One doctor recommended a home physical therapy device that upon my query he thought cost $300 if not covered by insurance, and $50 if it were. Correct answer: $740 and virtually no insurance company will get near it.

But physical therapy is different. My insurance company charges me a percentage of PT, not a flat co-pay, and it seemed to me that some of the treatments I was getting were less useful than others or could just as easily be done at home. Like taping my foot, for example. Or icing. Here, at least, was a situation where I could choose if I thought a particular procedure was worth the cost to me and save some money by declining it.

Each treatment, of course, has a billing code. I asked the PT guy for a price list of my assorted treatments and he said sorry, he only treats and codes. (I guess everybody’s a specialist these days). The receptionist said she had no way of knowing either. She merely beams the codes the PT guy gives her to a galaxy far, far away. Certainly one out of earthling telephone range because as many times as I called them, I was never able to reach a sentient being.

Of course, I’m aware that in the current system, there is technically no set charge for a procedure; it’s whatever your insurance company has contracted for. Or if uninsured, the contracted price times five. But someone, somewhere, was billing my insurance company and subsequently me. So why were they harder to find than Dick Cheney?

The Explanation of Benefits from my insurance company was equally murky; I’d get lump sum charges for each of the days I was there underneath a computation that only a rocket scientist could decipher. Nothing friendly and English-y like “Your co-pay for gimpy foot taping: $25.”

The insurance folks, interestingly, didn’t seem to have any better idea what I was being billed for than I did. No translations of the billing codes could be produced in any Germano-centric language.

I ultimately concluded that I was just going to have to accept that prior knowledge of medical charges was simply one of life’s unknowable mysteries, like what REALLY happened to the other black sock in the dryer.

Meanwhile I’m taping my own foot now and saving…I have absolutely no idea.

The Summer The Lemon Biz Went Sour

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published August 12, 2010] © 2010

Watching all the neighborhood kids with their lemonade stands this week, I was reminded of the summer my eight and eleven year old sons decided to turn our prolific lemon tree into a wholesale lemon business. It was probably the best entrepreneurial experience either of them has ever had.

They, of course, had had plenty of lemonade stands of their own. But it didn’t take too much mathematical genius to realize that their goal of owning their own Nintendo store wasn’t happening with such paltry proceeds.

A survey of the back 40 (feet) had quickly revealed that we had only one cash crop: lemons. The tree, sporadically watered and never fertilized, had thrived on benign neglect and produced a seemingly inexhaustible supply of grapefruit-sized lemons. The kids hatched a plan.

The next afternoon, standing outside a now-defunct La Jolla health food store that market research had been shown to be selling Sunkist, the kids and I reviewed their pitch. Mom lectured on some of the finer points of salesmanship, such as Why We Wear Shoes During a Sales Presentation. This is not immediately obvious to a Southern California child and turned out to be wasted anyway since the manager/surfer dude who ran the place was unshod himself. At the appointed time, we presented ourselves, made introductions all around, and as rehearsed, explained why our product was one the House of Organicity shouldn’t be without. The manager duly tasted The Product (we held our breaths) and pronounced it “good”. Or maybe that was “gnarly”.

My younger son, Henri didn’t miss a beat. “$2.00 a pound,” he announced firmly, “and that’s our final offer!” (This was not part of the script.)

The manager rolled his eyes. “Sorry, kid, but I can’t get more than $.29 a pound for these.”

“So how about a 50-50 split?” I jumped in, also not part of the script. (Henri maintained after that I was a “weenie wimp” who had negotiated us out of any serious profits before he was even warmed up. I should mention he is now an MBA.)

Seventy pounds of lemons were ordered, deliverable immediately.

We rushed home to process the first order. As Rory picked and Henri washed, dried and polished, I gave them the crash course on quality control, about how even one overly green or rotten lemon could (excuse the expression) sour the whole deal. An hour and a half later, the first order from the Pumphouse Lemon Company was on the store’s counter.

“Do you have an invoice?” the manager dude asked. While I explained that the, er, invoices were still, ah, at the printer, the kids were ecstatic to receive $10.50 for a mere hour’s work.

“Wow,” said Rory, “why would anyone get a regular job when you can go into business?”

The next day, we not only had invoices, but a logo (a lemon) and even a slogan (“A lemon from PLC is grown with TLC.”) We were impressed with ourselves.

Until I dropped into the store a few days later to check supply and discovered our lemons being sold for $.49 a pound, not $.29.

“A terrible oversight,” the dude explained. “These are just such great organic lemons that we quickly realized we were underselling them. And I couldn’t find your phone number.”

I fixed him with my steeliest gaze. “It’s one thing to cheat another adult,” I said, feeling like I was getting the quickie Harvard Business School education, “but you will NOT cheat my kids.” Additional funds were immediately forthcoming without my ever having to mention the two resident heroin addicts at Wind n’ Sea Beach who, it was rumored, would break anyone’s kneecaps for $500.

But while the young entrepreneurs thought they had found the perfect merger of supply and demand, the vagaries of both concepts hit them squarely between the eyes several months later. The seemingly endless supply of lemons dried up, and before another crop could be produced, the tree crumped (a casualty of a new sprinkler system) and the health food store went under.

Which is when they learned another valuable concept of fledgling businesses: don’t quit the day job.

The Mysteries Of Elder Think Are Explained

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published July 29, 2010] © 2010

Recently, I received this email from my late-twenties son, Henri:

For your next column, I think you should write about the backwards logic of the elderly. Your recent comment that you are “too old for near-death experiences” (i.e. things that scare you) is paradoxical to me. Since you are already old [62], it seems to me that you should be more willing to risk death since you have less to lose? I, on the other hand, have forty to fifty great years ahead of me, so I shouldn’t ever risk death. If I were really old, I would be in a rush to try to get in as many things as I could since time is running out. Go figure.

Dear Henri:

Go figure indeed. You do raise some intriguing questions. But I think the simple answer as to why old people are not willing to risk death is that we are not, unlike a core group of people your age (but fortunately not you), judgment-challenged idiots. Your mother was definitely one in her earlier years. While we ossifying oldies remember well the sense of invulnerability that characterizes youth, the reason we are still here is that we have recovered from it. Or at least lived to tell about it. Olof, as you know, was an Air Force pilot in his younger years and did some very high-risk flying. When asked why he didn’t remain a pilot, he likes to quote the saying, “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots.”

I must also take issue with your suggestion that we in the senectitude set have “less to lose”. I’d like to live long enough so that my currently-infant grandchildren could pick me out of a lineup. (Well, hopefully not literally, but that all depends on how Social Security holds up.) Never having them know me and remember me would be a lot to lose indeed.

As for you kids, when Olof and I were on work assignment in Sweden in 2006, I concluded that the key to a loving relationship between a mother and her adult sons was 7,000 miles. I’ve worked hard since then to continue the close bond I have with you and Rory, and enjoy basking in the warm glow of my efforts, a plan which would be seriously thwarted by my untimely death.

 I also cannot imagine being separated from the much-adored Olof. And not just because it would irk the hell out of me to crump and have Olof – and my estate – succumb to the charms of a twenty-two- year-old pole dancer.

As for “rushing to get as many things in as I could”, I am rushed out. I spent my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s rushing. If I haven’t gone there and done that, I’m either not interested or will rent the video.

I know you think sixty-two is a little early to be hanging around smelling the roses. But I’m just happy that most of my senses and a quorum of my body parts are still in operation. In the last issue of my college alumni news, it seemed like everyone had had a knee replacement. Except for the ones who had a double knee replacement.

While your mother is hardly a financial genius, she does recognize that when one has a shorter term to invest, the return has to be better. So I’m fairly picky about what I want to invest my time in. It had better be really fun. And not involve the 405, O’Hare, or anything made with Jell-O. I don’t want to have my life be a to-do list, a bucket list, or in fact, ANY kind of list.

At your age, I wanted the nineteen countries in twenty-one days see-it-all, do-it-all trip. I now aspire to the Italian philosophy of l’arte di far niente – the art of doing nothing. And preferably, as slowly as possible.


*The Art Of Driving The Waiter Wacko

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published July 15, 2010]  © 2010

A local waiter I know says that no matter how much women tip, it isn’t worth the pain and suffering of dealing with them.

A co-ed group is fine, he insists, but a group of six or eight women out for lunch or dinner is a waiter’s worst nightmare.

Why, he begs to know, can’t women just order their own meal? But no, he fumes, everybody has to share a salad and an entrée with someone else. And that someone is invariably at the other end of the table.

Negotiations are prolonged and interminable. His imitation is brutal:

Waiter (third time over): Ready to order now?

Woman1: “Who wants to split a pasta and a Nicoise salad with me?”

Woman2: “I will, if we leave out the green beans. My trainer says they’re not good for my blood type.”

Waiter (fifth trip over, teeth clenched in forced smile): “Have we decided yet, ladies?”

Women: “Yes, I think we’re ready. Muffy and Babs are going to split an order of ravioli but Babs wants the lemon cream sauce on hers and Muffy wants the marinara. Oops, that’s the other way around. They also want to split a house salad, one with balsamic vinaigrette on the side, and the other tossed with the honey mustard, if that’s not too much trouble. ZsuZsu and Topper are going to split the goat cheese pizza but hold the red onion on one half, and a small house salad with no feta, and no tomatoes unless they’re organic. Bitsy and I will have the Greek sampler plate but since she doesn’t like falafel, could you put her falafel on my plate, and my lamb kabob on hers? If there’s only one of something, just cut it in half.” (Smiles.) “We don’t want to make this complicated.”

Several minutes later: “Is it too late to change the ravioli to linguine?”

Several minutes after that: “Bitsy has just reminded us to confirm with your chef that none of your food products come from China.”

The food comes. No one can remember what they ordered.

It’s even worse, he says, if the restaurant serves anything even remotely ethnic.
“What’s in it?” [Answer: the ingredients listed on the menu.]
“Is it spicy?” [Well, yeah. It’s SUPPOSED to be spicy.]
“Can you make it not spicy?” [What’s your definition of “not spicy”? And if you don’t like spicy, order the ravioli!]

And don’t even get him started on the wine. It doesn’t matter that every time they come in he tells them that there are approximately five glasses in a bottle. They still have to ask how many glasses in a bottle. And then first round negotiations begin: who wants red and who wants white followed by an extensive cost analysis of ordering a bottle of red plus three glasses of white versus a bottle of each. Preferences for Pinot Grigio vs. Chardonnay, Cabernet vs. Merlot are tallied. The waiter’s recommendations on the wine list will be solicited, he says, but universally ignored.

But the coup de grace is the check. This, he maintains, makes everything before it look like a day at the Shores. It’s when the waiter decides it’s really time to go back and get his B.A. Or a gun license. The cell phone calculators come out. Who had what, or more specifically, half of what, must be ascertained before figuring in tax and tip. Two people have invariably realized they have no cash and want to either write a check for their portion or put just their part on a credit card. If guys were there, he maintains, they’d divide the check by eight. No calculators would be seen. They would never hand you eight credit cards. And then ask you to put a different amount on each.

As far as he’s concerned, a 70% tip would be reasonable. But still not enough. What he really wants is a table full of guys.

Inga Explains The Mathematics Of Chocolate

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published July 1, 2010] © 2010

Inga was deliciously, er, deliriously happy to begin seeing TV commercials for Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut heroin popular in Europe and even more popular with Inga.  This stuff was a mainstay of her diet during the two years she and Olof lived in Sweden. 

Nutella has actually been available for quite a while in the U.S. in the peanut butter aisle.  It’s most common application is as a spread on white bread, the breakfast of non-champions.  Even the commercial doesn’t try to sell you on the health benefits of Nutella itself, but as a vehicle to get your kids to eat something that is. 

But here’s where Inga thinks you have to view nutrition creatively. 

For example, unknown to any but the most dedicated wrapper-reading chocoholics, one can supply ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of one’s daily calcium, riboflavin, protein AND fiber requirements (never mind a whopping 50% of your daily iron) with only twenty-five vending machine-size packages of M&Ms – all with no trans-fats and staying WELL within your daily sodium and cholesterol allotments.   It is unclear how there can actually be any fiber in M&Ms but the label says there is and surely they wouldn’t lie about it.  Must be the cornstarch?   (Source:  Nutrition Through Candy:  Eating Your Way to Better Health With Sugar and Red Dye #2, by Inga.)

So all those healthy hazelnuts floating in their cocoa-based fat suspension are a dietary slam dunk in comparison.  Nutella makes a sinfully oozy filling for a crepe.  (The crepe is also supposed to have fruit but Inga regards this as a distracting contaminant.)  It’s equally great on ice cream.  Or rubbed on Olof and… oops, getting carried away here. 

Sadly, someone of Inga’s age and avoirdupois does have to show some restraint.   Inga long ago concluded that putting Nutella on bread only dilutes its rich chocolately gooeyness; it should ideally be mainlined, er, consumed in its purest right-out-of the-jar form.  But she pledged to restrict herself to a tablespoon per day – 100 calories, 6 grams of fat, no worse than peanut butter.

It turns out, however, that if you use a soup spoon (the equivalent of a tablespoon) and you buy the large economy size jar of Nutella, you can get the spoon buried into the Nutella jar about five inches up the handle.  Then with dedicated practice (it’s all in the wrist), one twists the spoon until a giganto glob of Nutella at least three inches in diameter is wrapped around it.  A power drill may be employed if necessary. 

Of course, to get full immersion of the spoon into the Nutella, one’s fingers often inadvertently end up in the contents of the jar, sometimes one’s entire thumb!  And if one is not careful, the index and middle fingers as well!  Which must be licked!  And which is the only explanation as to why a large economy size jar of Nutella has at best three tablespoons.  And is also how Inga lived in Stockholm for two years with no car, walked five miles a day, and gained twelve pounds. 

No, despite the new TV ads and those wonderful Swedish memories, she’s going to have to give the Nutella aisle a wide berth.  At least that’s what her Nutella Anonymous group has advised.

Fighting Back Against The Robo Callers

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published June 17, 2010]
© 2010

I’m thinking of running for public office on a platform of outlawing automated phone calls from candidates for public office.

Olof and I are registered to different political parties so we not only hear from everyone, whole forests lose their lives just on the mailers.

The irony is, it’s all wasted on us. The fliers go straight to the recycle bin, and the automated calls get quick hang-ups. Unless, of course, it’s some survey person from Olof’s registered party who expects a kindred response and instead gets me.

“Do you believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman?” the caller queries, ready to segue into a bid for cash. “HELL NO!” I exclaim before hanging up. I have a clear conscience doing this as I know that this is Olof’s sentiment as well, even if he is technically registered to the Other Party.

If truth be known, Olof and I are really independents as we both regularly vote across party lines. But it makes dinner table conversation far more fun to debate the other person’s official party plank which is, by definition, whacko.

I couldn’t help but notice that some 90% of the up to twenty-five political calls we were getting daily were from Olof’s affiliation. “Your party must be DESPERATE”, I opined one night.

“Or,” parried Olof, “the Democrats have already given up,” smirking, “Wise of them.”

Being a registered Democrat in La Jolla has actually gotten a little easier over the thirty-some years I’ve lived here. But it used to be that the La Jolla Democratic Club would call me every year asking me to be an officer, having already been turned down by the other three Democrats in town.

And I do have to confess that 2008 was interminable. The only thing lonelier than the Maytag man is a La Jolla Democrat in an election year. But it was not a total loss. I’d long struggled to understand what the term “Family Values” meant and by the end of that year happily announced to Olof that I’d finally got it:

Family Values (noun, pl.) : common human mistakes worthy of compassion, understanding and support unless committed by those outside one’s political and social circle, and/or smarmy Democrats. (See also righteous indignation, flip-flop)

“You Dems are such cynics,” said Olof, whom I might add didn’t argue it.

But I’m digressing. The number of phone calls we received should be an actionable offense. And where, inquiring minds want to know, is the research that shows that harassing people into homicidal rage makes them more likely to vote for you? Inga can only lament that the “Send bazooka to caller” phone option is in its infancy.

In my worst fantasies, I see someone in a voting booth staring at their ballot for the first time. “Well, let’s see. That nice Meg Whitman called us 500 times, so I’ll vote for her!”

Unfortunately, I think Meg Whitman DID call us 500 times. When, of course, Steve Poizner wasn’t calling us. We’d place bets on which one it was with the end result that I think even Olof was sticking pins into the Meg and Steve dolls by the phone.

We recently – alas, too late - heard about a web site where one can opt out of political calls for a year at a time. But they’re going to give our phone number to all the political agencies who might call us and tell them not to do it. We fear that the two agencies that do not now have our phone number will now have it.

Olof and I lived in Sweden in 2005 and 2006 where there can be no campaigning or signage until thirty days before the election. It was so civilized, ja. We’re not likely to get that here but I’m serious about running on an opt-IN program where no political agencies can call you unless you flat-out beg them.

So vote for that nice Inga, the candidate you’ll never hear from. If elected, she promises to let you know if, after all those months of campaign mudslinging, anything actually changes.

*When There's Too Much Of A Good Thing

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published June 3, 2010]

I realize we’re talking La Jolla here, but I’ve concluded it’s possible for a home to be over-amenitized.

Friends of ours were able to get a great deal on a 4,000 square foot showplace that had risen out of the proverbial ashes of a former fixer. A spec house started before the real estate market went bust, it boasted “every amenity”.

Ironically, our friends were less interested in amenities than in the great location, the spaciousness of the house, and the proximity to schools. What they are finding is that there is a fine line between a builder who installs “every amenity” and one who has had a psychotic break. They spend pretty much all their time reading amenity manuals.

When I visited the new digs after they moved in, my friend asked if I might consult on her refrigerator. Near as I can tell, this refrigerator would also do her laundry if she asked it to but its digital thermometer was reading 50 degrees. Did I agree, she asked, that this seemed a tad warm? I did, and the repair service that she called moments later agreed as well, but alas, it being a Friday, they could not possibly come until Monday afternoon.

Not to worry, I told her. I was sure I could find enough space in my own fridge for her perishables over the weekend.

“You know,” she replied somewhat sheepishly, “that’s incredibly nice of you. But I think there may actually be some more refrigerators around here.”

I was stopped dead in my tracks. The mere idea that there could be refrigerators lying around that one didn’t know about put my imagination into overdrive. I fantasized Olof coming home from work to our 1,600 square foot cottage one night and saying, “So how was your day?” and my replying, “Well, I was looking for my set of Jane Austen’s and guess what I found – a refrigerator!”

Now, the friends hadn’t lived there very long at the time, but lo and behold, a brief search turned up a second refrigerator in the pasta cooking station and even another fridge – with freezer - in the wet bar. There was probably at least a fridgelet tucked into the master bath for those champagne bubble bath occasions and undoubtedly one on the grill patio. One would certainly be required on the roof deck. And in a pinch, one could always appropriate the wine fridge.

So thanks, she said, but it appeared she had alternate cooling resources. In fact, probably enough to back up Vons.

The downside of amenities, of course, is that they break – even brand-new allegedly still under warranty amenities. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the garbage disposal in the auxiliary prep sink stopped working as well. My friend had a repairman out to look at it and he agreed it was under warranty and also that the same problem was likely to recur. However, he added, it was more economical for the warrantors to keep fixing it than replacing it. Huh? I said, as my friend related the story. Every disposal I’ve ever had cost $100. No, she said, turns out that this is the Lamborghini of disposals. According to the repair guy, it could “do a small dog”. Olof heard this and said if it were him, he’d upgrade to one that does a medium dog. I’m guessing you could probably also do a husband if you cut him in dog-sized pieces first. (See imagination overdrive, above.) In fact, I was about to suggest to the friend that this house could be the site of the perfect crime. The industrial-grade mega-hertz central vac system would easily suck up even the minutest husband fragments and the disposal would make sure he was thoroughly chummed long before he hit the treatment plant. CSI wouldn’t stand a chance.

But then it occurred to me that those husband fragments could be friend fragments. Note to self: keep mouth shut.

*When A Little Knowledge Is Too Much Information

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published May 20, 2010] © 2010

Now that Olof no longer requires a high security clearance for his job, I can safely divulge that all anyone ever needed to do to get him to spill every secret he knew was tie him to a chair in front of a continuous loop of feminine hygiene commercials.

It wouldn’t even matter if he actually knew any secrets. By the time he listened to the fourth rendition of the Seasonique birth control ladies chirping “Who says that time of the month has to be EVERY month?”, he’d be making them up.

Olof truly lives in fear that in his life time, the commercial where they pour the blue dye on the product is going to be red dye. Or worse.

A former Air Force pilot, Olof was trained to survive behind enemy lines, withstand torture, and eat bugs. All of which he would rather do than be subjected to the virtues of patented LeakGuard Protection.

It used to be that if you avoided Woman’s Entertainment TV and Dancing with the Stars, you were safe. But now, he maintains, the ubiquitous feminine hygiene commercials have infiltrated everything but major sporting events, the only place where a guy can still be assured advertising of manly stuff, like beer, cars, big screen TVs and erectile dysfunction.

Olof grew up in a household with two sisters, no brothers, and is now on his second wife. So you’d think by now that he might be desensitized to the whole issue. But no. The second the words “gentle glide insertion” come up on the screen, Olof has made a beeline for the refrigerator hoping to avoid details of what might be gliding where. He’s clear on the concept, he insists. But do they have to be so graphic?

He is also dismayed that today’s guys are supposed to be cool with this stuff when he personally knows they are faking it. They all want to run screaming in the other direction, insists Olof. And only return when the recreational facilities are once again open for business.

A male friend of ours has his own complaint. Being sent out to buy products that may or may not have wings, that come in fifty different possibilities of length, width, and thickness, and that all seem to have names that end in “tex”, should be a felony. By definition, a guy is going to have to stand in front of a six tier display of products for like hours with no hope he’s going to get it right. (“No, dear, I specifically said ultra-thin extra-coverage liners for THONGS.”) And he is NOT about to ask for help either. In his worst nightmare, the PA system at the CVS booms, “available associate to aisle 5 to assist guy in maxi-pads.” He’d never recover.

Yes, concurs Olof, the country has been hit by a full frontal assault of female TMI. The feminine mysteries have become tragically unmysterious.

Erectile dysfunction commercials, he notes by example, are deliberately vague. If you just arrived from the planet Klingon and had no idea what erectile dysfunction was, you’d think they were advertising hot tubs. This, Olof says, is how it should be. Not even a clever metaphor of jets soaring into flight or hydraulic lifts. Hot tubs.

To join Olof in this quest, log on to Before there’s a Playtex ad on the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

**La Jolla's Furry Little Secret

[This article about La Jolla's rat problem won the $500 first prize in a local San Diego writing contest. It is rumored that the La Jolla Real Estate Broker's Association still has a contract out on me. Alas, seasonal rat offensives are still a too-regular part of my life.] © 2009

Several years ago, as part of a kitchen remodel, we opted to add skylights around the house as a way of reducing the mildew that appears to be the karmic revenge toward those who live near the ocean. As soon as construction began, however, the contractor pointed out that we had termites. So we got the termite guy out who wanted to tent us, except that first, he said, we had to get rid of the rats.

That we might have attic occupants of the rodent persuasion was no surprise. It wasn’t long after we moved here that I learned that while the little furry fauna are prevalent all over our county (like the rest of us, they came for the weather), they are happiest to eschew the slimmer pickings of less landscaped areas of the city for the dense protective foliage and abundant food supply in places like La Jolla. Our personal rat population prefers to summer in close proximity to our orange tree, inconsiderately leaving orange rinds on the grass, but worse, having the poor manners to skitter across the patio just as we and our guests are sitting down to an elegant outdoor dinner. One can only glare at them and hiss, Do you mind????? We’re trying to have a classy meal here! (Lobbing a few cans of Rat-Be-Gone into the ivy in retaliation the next morning is not unheard of.)

Rats fortunately don’t want to come into the living quarters of your house (well, most of the time, anyway), but once the harsh California winter temperatures plummet into the 60’s, a rat family – Mom, Dad, the kids – moves in to winter in one’s toasty attic making comfy nests out of your insulation and dining on escargot (a.k.a the snails that feed on your daisies). The La Jolla Chamber of Commerce never ever mentions the “R” word.

Even the county of San Diego carefully disguises its e-rat-ication campaign on your tax bill under the heading of Vector Control. Of course, the vectors are disease vectors - in the case of rodentia, typhus and bubonic plague and most recently, hantavirus. Nothing you want to get. Let us be clear that the county isn’t going to come out and bag them for you. But they excel at showing you how you can smite the little furballs yourself.

In fairness, and in anticipation of becoming a persona non rat-a with my fellow La Jollans, let me state that while virtually all homes in La Jolla have at least a modest exterior rat presence, some houses are more prone to be rat havens than others. My 1947 built-by-the-lowest-bidder-after-the-war cottage is one of them. And some years are much worse rat years than others for reasons I’ve never been able to ascertain. One such year, in my single parent days, I heard the familiar scurrying in my attic and worse, the gnawing. If there’s one sound I hate, it’s gnawing. Lying awake at 3 a.m., I was consumed with curiosity. “What are they eating up there?” Of course, what I feared was that it was my wiring but it definitely had more of a beam-ish sound. Maybe it was actually the termites having a giant orgy? (In addition to being a rat Xanadu, my tiny cedar house with its ancient wood shake roof is the termite equivalent of Islam’s 72 virgins.) But that winter, listening to the relentless overhead chewing that I feared was devouring the investment I had sold myself into perpetual penury to buy during my divorce, I decided it was time to bring in the professionals.

A very nice gentlemen from a local pest control firm duly arrived at my home the next afternoon and installed live-capture traps throughout my attic, and in the abundant foliage around the house, with promises that he would be back daily to check on them. It was all very humane, he explained.

“So what do you do with them after you catch them?” I asked, immediately regretting the question.

“Oh,” he said, “we drive them out to the country and let them go.” He actually said this with a straight face. Unfortunately, he looked like he’d had a supporting role in The Terminator and that the back of his truck was filled with devices I didn’t want to know about. I was starting to feel bad for the rats.

Well, until about five of them were captured in the yard in four days, never mind a few in the attic. I had to be home every day for the pest control guy to get into my attic crawl space which wasn’t easy with work and carpool schedules. Plus, daily rat service was seriously costing me. Being newly re-entered to the work force and earning just above minimum wage, it became clear this was going to have to be a Kill-It-Yourself project.

There wasn’t much internet to speak of eighteen years ago when my local hardware gave me a hot tip about the county Vector Control program. But, happy to see My Tax Dollars at Work, I gave them a call, expecting some big burly rodent-hating club-wielding guy to show up. So you can imagine my surprise when this sweet young very petite long-blond-haired thing named Liz appeared at my door. A more fearless human I have never met. Climbing up her ladder to the cover of my attic crawl space, she gave the cover several sharp knocks. “I always like to alert them I’m coming in” she smiled.“Simple courtesy.” Adding, “I also don’t like rats falling on my head.” This was a concept on which we could agree. We systematically walked around my house, she showing me all the places that rats could get in and ways I could thwart them. An Amazing But True Rat Fact is that they can squish their little bodies through a half-inch high space.

Outside, Liz explained that my wood pile and the dense ivy over my fence were Ratopias, my prolific orange tree a veritable rat Whole Foods. She instructed me to go to the hardware and get them to cut a number of pieces of 3-4 inch diameter PVC pipe into 18-24 inch lengths into the middle of which I would insert rat poison so it would not be accessible to any neighborhood cats. These were duly placed around the property.

But the tricky part was the attic. I didn’t really want to trap live rats since I had no idea what I’d then do with them. (Well, there was that one neighbor…) I didn’t really want to trap dead rats either but that appeared to be the only other alternative. For those who’ve never seen a rat trap, think mouse trap on steroids. And with a snap bar that will easily break every one of your fingers. My livelihood as a clerical at the time was dependent on those fingers. Liz suggested that I bait the traps and set the springs in the hallway bathroom below and then tiptoe up my rickety ladder ever so carefully and set them very very gently just inside my attic crawl space. Trust me, I would never have attempted this without her cheerleader support.

For the record, a rat’s cuisine of choice is not cheese, as one might suspect, but peanut butter - a little known fact that you might use the next time you’re at a dinner party and the conversation lags. In fact, for years after Liz’s visit, our refrigerator featured two jars of peanut butter, one labeled “For Kids” and the other “For Rats”. Normally I wouldn’t confess that there were times I was so irked at the kids for one transgression or another that I was tempted to put the rat trap knife in their jar. But the statute of limitations is passed. Anyway, by the time Liz was done, I was, as my engineer second husband would say, “fully rat capable”.

Ultimately, however, I wearied of climbing up and down my ladder with my peanut butter-baited traps, and even more so, of removing dead rat carci before breakfast. (It’s actually no better after breakfast.) There is just nothing worse than starting your day off with a dead rat, other than the knowledge that it is guaranteed to get better. But the second husband wasn’t on the scene yet (where are men when you need them????), so what to do? I had always remembered the words of the pest control guy that one should never put rat poison in the attic; should a rat may die up there, one’s home would soon be wafting of Eau de Rodent Morte. I was lamenting this with my cleaning-fanatic neighbor Karen who has always been openly, if affectionately, critical of my housekeeping skills. “But in your house,” she reasoned, “who could tell?”

She was just funning, of course. But by nightfall, the spring-loaded rat traps were in the trash, and liberal quantities of rat poison packets had found their way into my attic crawl space. I never smelled anything amiss, but when a roofing guy was up there not long ago, he mentioned that he had come upon not one but two rat skeletons. I should mention that we were on a foreign work assignment in 2005-2006 and I can only assume that the aforementioned decedents had succumbed during our absence. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

I know that there are going to be folks who will blast me as a heartless rodent slayer with no regard for the pain and suffering I have caused countless small furry animals who, like the rest of us, are just trying to make a living. And I will admit that I have had moments of actual compassion for the little guys, most notably while watching the film Ratatouille on an airline flight. At one point there’s a scene where the old woman, annoyed at the scurrying of little feet above, bangs on her ceiling with a broom handle only to have a rodent colony the size of Leisure World come crashing down into her kitchen. I realized at that moment why I have never dared bang on my ceilings. Clearly the Rats Rights League was involved in this film as there were no scenes of the adorable protagonist chewing on computer cables or leaving droppings on the guest bed pillow. Our rats are grievously ignorant of boundary issues.

Now, of course, much of the info my fellow afflictees here in Ratopolis er, La Jolla, would need for successful containment of their rodent guests can be done from the privacy of their own homes via, er, no, They even have Rat Control Starter Kits and a Rat Control CD, which I genuinely recommend. But in my heart of hearts, I’m glad I had Liz.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Draconian Diet Of Dr. No

["Let Inga Tell You", The Jolla Light, published May 6, 2010] © 2010

Olof and I are not sure how much longer we can bear up under the draconian dietary restrictions of our primary care physician, Dr. No*. (*Not her real name.)

We inherited Dr. No from our former primary care physician, Dr. Fabulous, who retired and hand-picked Dr. No as her replacement. In retrospect, we think that this was Dr. Fab’s parting revenge on all the patients who were a tad lax in following her directives. Olof and I might have been among them.

Dr. No (as in no alcohol, no sugar, no coffee, no starches, no fun) is one tough task master. If it’s a white carb (rice, potatoes, bread, pasta), we can’t have it. If it’s a non-white carb (brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grain bread or pasta), we can have a teeny bit. She’s not too big on fats either. In fact, Dr. No has a personal vendetta against anything human beings actually like to eat.

Let me be clear that Olof and I aren’t rigidly adhering to this regimen. But we feel really bad about it. If dietary guilt lowered triglycerides, we would be the healthiest people in America. But since we aren’t, we’ve directed that when the time comes, we’d like our ashes spread over a vat of cheese enchiladas.

I have to confess that Olof has done a lot better job in the deprivation department than I have. I would never have thought Olof, a ten cup a day coffee drinker, could subsist without coffee. Initially, his co-workers were sending me worried messages. They feared the real Olof had been kidnapped by aliens and a non-coffee-drinking facsimile had been substituted in his place. They do classified work so this could have been a problem.

But the bigger issue for Olof was potatoes. Actually, even Dr. Fabulous wanted us to restrict our potato consumption which was just crushing to Olof who is a serious potato guy. For years, I’d been limiting potatoes to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners just so I could assure Dr. Fab we were really trying. Fortunately for Olof, he had frequent business trips to Dallas which I suspected became frenzied potato orgies. He’ll deny this, but I always thought he came home smelling like sour cream and chives.

For me, it’s always been about sugar, and even more about the rich sensuous divinely gooey chocolate that is rapturously enrobing it. You’ve probably heard that Lindor Truffles commercial: “Do you dream in chocolate?” You betcha. I personally attribute this to my inability to lose weight - all that chocolate I consume in my sleep. The ever-skeptical Dr. No suggested I should consider eating less chocolate in my sleep and while I’m at it, start exercising in my sleep as well. She just never lets up.

Olof and I like to lie in bed at night watching Emeril, a throwback to the days when we were allowed actual food. As Emeril whips up a chicken Cordon Bleu, we will both sigh in almost eerie unison, “Dr. No would never let us have that.”

Other times we’ll brainstorm about how we might tweak it to make it less Dr. No-Way. “Well,” Olof will muse, “if we used olive oil instead of butter, non-fat milk instead of cream, left out the pasta and the parmesan…”

“We’d have minced shallots Alfredo,” I said. “This was supposed to be fettuccini.”

Somewhere in Sun City, Dr. Fab is sipping pina coladas and laughing maniacally.

When An Appliance Gives You Grief

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published April 22, 2010] © 2010

Most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dealing with death, but I think they work equally well with appliance repair.

Not long ago, the electronic control panel on our stove went south, mid-meatloaf. Where moments before had been a glittery display panel reminiscent of the Star Ship Enterprise was now the Black Screen of Death. An ominous notation appeared: “Error F5”.

Instantly, I went into Denial. As in, this can’t be happening to me! This range is practically new! It had great ratings! I even went so far as to search online as to what Error F5 was. It was possible, I thought (see Denial, above) it could be something innocuous. But basically Error F5 is code for “This is SO going to cost you.”

Finding out that the first available repair appointment from the Authorized Dealer was going to be nine days away made an easy segue into Stage 2: Anger. Loads of anger. One teensy weensy component goes bad and the entire control board has to be replaced? This is felony design abuse! What was so wrong (caution: Luddite alert) with the old two knob ranges, bake knob on the right, temp knob on the left? It is immoral! It’s un-American! It’s – no, no, I’m not turning down the appointment. But – and here we glide seamlessly into Stage 3, Bargaining - are you sure you can’t get me in any sooner? The kids and grandchild are going to be visiting next weekend and having no way to cook except a microwave is going to be really, really hard. Maybe you have a cancellation list I could put my name on? (Please?)

Like dying, it only gets worse from there, because eventually the Authorized Dealer actually shows up. The kids had been very nice about it all when they came. It wouldn’t be their last visit, they said, consolingly. And it never hurts to remind oneself from time to time how wonderful warm food tastes on a cold rainy evening especially since they didn’t get any. But by this time, Olof and I are ready for some serious bakables. So it was with total shock when the Authorized Dealer mentions that control panels are a special order, usually thirty days. Stage 4, complete and total Depression, slams you right between the taste buds.

But during that long month, a funny thing happens - Stage 5: Acceptance. You develop an inner peace, not to mention an intimate relationship with the pizza guy. Cooking is over-rated. Vast technological improvements have been made in microwavables. You can now often recognize the animal they were made from.

So when the Authorized Dealer calls to install the new panel, you’re almost not sure you want him to come out. Especially when he tells you that the control board is $590 and labor to install $150. More, of course, than a whole stove used to cost. But then you think about your mother’s wonderful cassoulet and about the grandkids coming to refer to you as Grammy Nuke. So you fork over the money and fix the range, assuming this was just a fluke and you’ll have many more years of life out of this appliance.

Talk about Denial.

I Was A Mistress Of Both Tiger AND Jesse

[This column was submitted for the April 8, 2010 issue of the La Jolla Light but was rejected as being inappropriate for a family newspaper. Further, it would be coming out the week after Easter when there would be lots of coverage of "chicks and bunnies" - a bad fit, in their view. A more bunny-friendly column about family pets was submitted in its place.] © 2010

You cannot begin to know the minutes of anguish with which I have struggled with this decision, but the public has a right to know. I have been a mistress of both Tiger AND Jesse.

Yes, it’s true. My reasons for coming forward are varied, but they mostly include a hope for my 2.5 seconds of fame and, of course, one-upping all those other bimbos.

I tried to get Gloria Allred to represent me but alas, I didn’t save any of my text messages. Gloria says you should ALWAYS save your text messages as you never know when you might want to blackmail someone. So you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Mistressing to the rich and famous has, alas, become a hugely competitive field and frankly, all sorts of tattooed trailer trash have been littering it up. I am not like them. All of my tats are of the Virgin Mary.

What really hurts my feelings about all this is that Tiger and Jesse and the entire defensive line of the San Diego Chargers and I really had something special. So when I saw that they were involved with so many other women, I was shocked. And I demand a personal apology. Because even though I have more artificial parts than Artoo-Detoo, I still have feelings.

And yes, I knew that all twenty-seven of them were married. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a girl to expect a celebrity to leave his beautiful successful wife for someone with a third grade education and sporadically-treated STDs.

I know that now that I have admitted to carnital relations with Tiger and Jesse that the paparazzi will be camped outside my door. Fortunately, I have my publicity stills ready to hand out, including the modeling shots I did for the Hooters “Silicon Vallies” calendar. Since Gloria won’t represent me, my sister’s husband/cousin Clive who runs a restaurant fry-oil disposal business has agreed to be my manager. All offers pre-accepted.

I also want to reply in advance to all those nasty people who will post cruel things about me on radaronline. I’m a person just like you, only with no standards whatsoever. And even though I’m currently mad at Tiger and Jesse, they are just like you and me too, except with more money than Croesus and egos the size of the Grand Canyon. Not to mention stratospherically stupid that they think that in this electronic age, they can have affairs and send text messages and not get outed. Maybe too much sex kills brain cells. The AMA should investigate this.

So, that’s my story. Look for my distraught-looking photo on the front page of your nearest tabloid. And if you’ve got a reality show in the works, I’m in.

It's For The Birds - Really

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published April 8, 2010, to replace the rejected "I Was A Mistress Of Both Tiger AND Jesse" column] © 2010

If I had one piece of advice for parents, it is to never let your kids get pets with a life expectancy greater than you.

We know of what we speak.

When our son Rory was nine, he begged for a cockatiel. Actually, he begged for a boa constrictor or a dachshund but given the Mom reptilian aversion factor and sibling’s allergies, neither of those were happening. I also wasn’t sure I trusted Rory not to try to feed his brother to the snake. Although if boas would eat goldfish, we could have had a negotiation.

Shortly after my first husband and I separated, the kids arrived home from a weekend visit holding a plastic bag with three goldfish.

“Look, Mommy! Daddy bought us pets! This one is Lucky, that one is Tucky, and the little one is Ducky!”

“How nice of Daddy!” I exclaimed, sending psycho-radioactive darts in Dad’s direction. “But where is Lucky, Ducky, and Tucky’s bowl?”

“The pet store has lots of choose from,” said my ex, beating a hasty retreat. So he got credit for “pets” ($.39 outlay), and Mom forked out $20 for the bowl, toys, food. The kids lost interest in them in four minutes flat, but it was ten years before one of the fish finally passed away. (“I hope it wasn’t Lucky,” said my second husband, Olof, at the time.)

“So,” I said to the nice lady at the Village Pet Shop, as I arrived on Christmas Eve to pick up our first cockatiel. “How long do these birds live?”

“Oh,” she said, “twenty years. Sometimes thirty.”


Dinky, the Christmas bird, was the first of many cockatiels who would come into our lives, subsequently joined by Slinky, Twinkie and a boatload of other “inkies”. Rory liked to hang out after school at the pet shop where they would have him try to tame the birds that were too unfriendly to sell. A natural bird whisperer, Rory was universally successful, and in the process developed an attachment to the bird which we would invariably end up buying. Olof mumbled about our becoming an avian social service agency. “It was an unsalable bird!” he’d gripe. Ultimately the kids outgrew perseverative “inky” and “ucky” pet names. Good thing, as we were pretty much down to Stinky and Sucky.

Just as the tame bird population flying around the house began to create a health hazard that the cleaning lady perceptively termed “too much caca”, Rory decided to expand into bird breeding which required an outdoor aviary where the birds could fly freely. That succeeded waaaaay too well. Threatened with an exponentially expanding bird population, we finally wrested the nesting box (without which they won't mate) from the cage, thus alleviating Olof’s true-life nightmare of our own personal Hitchcock movie.

Rory, now 32, left for college some fifteen years ago and is married to a cat person in Santa Cruz. We, however, still have most of the birds. Will they really live thirty years? Or will it just seem that way? In truth, we’re pretty attached to them. They recognize our car engines, they whistle with Olof, they chirp with joy when we come out to feed them in the morning . A suggestion last week to our younger son in L.A. that the birds might wish to relocate to the nice sunny back yard of their newly purchased home brought an almost instantaneous reply from our daughter- in- law: DO NOT EVEN THINK IT. Um, OK, that was pretty clear.

Looks like we’re leaving these birds a bequest in our will.

Fear: It's In The Heart Of The Beholder

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published March 25, 2010] © 2010

A few months ago, a friend and I went to see the Amelia Earhart movie where at one point, Amelia asks, “Who would want to spend their lives cocooned in safety?” Both of our hands shot up in the dark.

In my next life, I have it on my list to be more like Amelia, but in this one, I have a world class fear of fear. My older son, Rory, and I were at a theme park a while back watching one of those rides that drops people from 300 feet to the ground in about two milliseconds. I couldn’t imagine why people actually pay money to do this, but then, as I observed to Rory, “I’m already my own scary ride.” I come from a family of people whose highly over-amped nervous systems seem to be hardwired into disaster mode. People who opt for the Supreme Scream are looking for an adrenaline rush of terror. I get that from leaving my house in the morning.

Yes, I said to Rory, who grows ever more grateful he is adopted, there is definitely a genetic element to Mom’s aversion to scary movies, scary rides, scary freeways, and even just plain life. As for the freeways, it probably didn’t help that my father drove like a maniac, happily careening in and out of five freeway lanes at stunt driver speeds, passing on blind curves, and generally making any family car trip a bid for a land speed record. The kids, meanwhile, peered through fingers covering their terrified little faces whimpering, “Are we dead yet?” Dad was quick to point out that he had never had an accident. He was less quick to point out that he had his license revoked for speeding in almost every state in the northeast.

But, as I also pointed out to Rory, that while I’ll never stop coveting that elusive cocoon of safety, fear - like life - works in curious ways. Some years ago, four friends and I had gone out to the desert for a rare weekend off, leaving five unhappy husbands home to cope with ten weepy toddlers. Our bliss was short-lived, however, as we settled in for our first round of margaritas only to discover that our rented casita was also inhabited by small straw-colored scorpions, the deadly kind, and even the odd tarantula. Mentioning this at the resort’s front desk moments later, the clerk could only express ennui. Really hard to keep the little guys out, he said. It’s the DESERT. Just shake out your shoes before you put them on. Worst case, the Life Flight helicopter could have you at the hospital in El Cajon in fifteen minutes.

This was not the answer my compatriots wished to hear.

We’d already paid for our pricey accommodations. The logistics had been formidable. What to do? For some reason, I’d never gotten around to being afraid of bugs (so much to fear, so little time) hence I volunteered to do a search-and-destroy mission. While my quaking friends huddled atop the safety of the dining room table, I tipped back each piece of rattan furniture and squashed anything that moved. (The one baby tarantula, I shooed gently out with a broom.) Finally, one of the friends observed from her perch, “Gee, Inga, you won’t drive on freeways but you’re willing to take on deadly scorpions?” I could only shrug. “It’s not my fault you guys don’t know what’s scary in life.”

*Plumbing The Depths Of Romance

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published March 22, 2010] © 2010

My husband has always maintained that I married him for his skills with a sewer augur, but that’s only partially true.

It wasn’t long after my first husband and I divorced in 1983 that a friend perused my 11,000 square foot lot and observed, “You need a lover who likes gardening and pool maintenance.”

Please note that I’d traded every asset of the marriage AND took out a second mortgage to buy my former husband out of the place, so I brought this on myself. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Stability for me and the kids. Nice long-term investment.

Little did I realize how fast the place would suck me dry. Every leaf in my high-maintenance yard seemed to have pressing personal problems. And as big a fan as I was of child labor, you can’t really put a three year old behind a lawn mower. (Well, without getting a visit from the nice social services people.)

Meanwhile, my gardener guy was making twice what I was per hour at my entry level job at UCSD. Although every time he brought out the chain saw, I concluded he was underpaid.

As for home repairs, if it couldn’t be fixed with picture wire, duct tape, or hair scrunchies (a grossly under-utilized tool), it remained, by financial necessity, broken.

Except, of course, for plumbing disasters, which maliciously refuse to be ignored. My 1947 built-by-the-lowest-bidder home was one chronic plumbing crisis, aided and abetted by two little boys who delighted in toy flushing contests. Oh, the chortles of glee as cascades of water overflowed the bathroom and gushed into the hallway! Even when I had the kids sedated, er, otherwise occupied, tree roots were an on-going source of backups. I pretty much had the plumber on speed dial.

Until Olof entered the picture four years later. I would like to say for the record that I did not specifically select Olof for his skills at pulling a toilet and extracting rocket parts. But this is not a quality you should overlook in a man.

Olof, who was also divorced and had been a friend since high school, maintains that it was far easier to woo women in their 30’s than it had been the first time around when they were less interested in his prowess with a pipe wrench and more interested in romance.

When you’re a thirty-five year old single women with two little kids and The House From Hell, it’s amazing how fast the definition of romance changes.

Of course, Olof had many other attributes besides plumbing skills. He was positively dazzling with wood glue. One weekend when the boys were eight and ten, we returned from a brief walk to find the louvered door between the kitchen and TV room suddenly louver-less. The kids insisted that they had been quietly watching TV when the door spontaneously disintegrated. Scared the daylights out of them, they said. Any suggestion that one kid might have been chasing the other and the first one had thrown his weight into one side of the door while the other crashed into from the other side were met with looks of stunned incredulity. But over the course of an entire weekend, Olof reconstructed it on a sawhorse on the patio, louver by back-breaking louver.

The “kids” are now 30 and 32 but I still remember the moment Olof hung the door back on its hinges. Because that’s when I knew: it was love.

*Flipping Off The House Flippers

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published February 25, 2010] © 2010

Let me be the first to say that not all house flippers are bottom-feeding life forms not dissimilar to cockroaches. There are a few who either by accident or by design actually take into account the impact of their quickie “upgrades” on the neighbors that they themselves aren’t going to have to live next to. But from the stories I’ve heard over the past thirty-seven years in La Jolla, this doesn’t happen as often as the neighbors would have liked.

We’ve experienced a version of this ourselves.

For reasons known only to the builders, our home and the one next to it were built within ten feet of each other, despite each having a large lot. Fortunately, some common sense prevailed: since the master bedroom of the other house was practically arms length from our kitchen and patio French doors, no windows were built on that side of the neighbor’s house. A fifteen foot high hedge next door provided both visual and sound barriers which the fence between our properties just didn’t do. Everybody had total privacy.

Well, until a house flipper bought the neighbor’s house.

Within days, the hedge was firewood and we learned that a bank of windows was being installed in the neighbor’s master bedroom on our side. I quickly pointed out the privacy issues to the flippers and suggested instead that since they were putting on a new (cheap tacky, but I didn’t say that) roof, they might consider skylights. They ignored this idea, and it being a vastly different market than now, flipped the house at a tidy profit.

Fortunately we won the Neighbor Lottery in the new owner, Bert. Honestly, nicest guy on the planet. But Bert is single. And totally hunky. (Brief pause while Inga splashes cold water on her face.) Which means that Bert is not lacking for female companionship.

It was not long after Bert moved in that we were reading the Sunday paper on our little patio literally right under Bert’s new open bedroom windows when it became clear Bert was entertaining a guest. A very happy guest. My husband, Olof, and I looked at each other and pondered the possibilities before intoning in unison: “Living room?”

Of course, as the situation repeated itself, we tried to delicately convey the situation to Bert by talking loudly.



We definitely had a pulse on Bert’s social life. I say “had” because I think Bert, or more likely one of his lady friends, eventually caught on to our dilemma.

Lady Friend: Um, Bert honey – no, don’t stop - does it seem like there are people right outside your window?

Bert: Hrrmph?

Of course, we have friends with far worse flipper stories . It’s not fair to torture the post-flip owners who are innocent parties but if I were President, I’d make flipper intendees live in the remodeled house for a minimum of a year – enough time for the neighbors on either side to extract at least a modicum of revenge. A flipper flip-off , if you will. The Flipper Pay Back Act would allow anything short of arson (and maybe even that under select circumstances.)

It’s the neighborly thing to do.

Navigating the Nation's Highways with the 'RarelyLost'

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published February 11, 2010] © 2010

Forget iPhones, iPods, iPads and Wii. My husband and I agree that no techno gismo ever invented compares to GPS. But then, we’re not called the Bobbsey Twins of Directional Disability for nothing.

When Hertz first introduced the NeverLost GPS systems on rental cars some years back, Olof arrived home from a business trip looking like he had just cracked cold fusion. Despite a degree in reactor physics and ten years as an Air Force pilot, he can barely find his way out of a rental car lot. Fortunately, his Air Force planes included a navigator, whose most frequent communication was said to be, “No, your other right.”

As for me, if there is a 50% chance of turning in the right direction at an intersection, I will get it wrong 90% of the time.

We sure could have used a navigator all those years our younger son played soccer, instead leaving two hours early to allow time to get lost in North (also South, East and West) County in search of what we still maintain were criminally secreted youth soccer fields. Even so, the kid didn’t always get there for kick-off. Bad news since he was the goalie.

Good as the GPS systems are, we’ve found they sometimes get lost too. Leading us to the Denver airport, the disembodied female voice in the NeverLost savvily guided us to a road that dead-ended onto open prairie. Good thing we didn’t have four wheel drive on our vehicle or we might have thought, “Well, we did opt for `Shortest Route’.”

Of course, the GPS lady is used to people second guessing the directions, but if you don’t go where you’re told to, she gets peevish - some would say outright testy - before finally recalculating the route. We can hear her mumbling under her digital breath, “OK, you idiots, we’ll go your way. But if you thought the Richmond Bridge was bad, wait’ll you see the Golden Gate!”

We suspect once she gets back to the rental car return, she personally commiserates with the other ladies who live in GPS units. (”Oh, no, you got them again!”) We also think that they can be vindictive. (We’re not entirely sure that Denver thing was an accident.)

GPS systems are also not at their best in sparsely populated areas. A few summers ago, we visited a relative’s home in darkest, ruralest Ohio the directions to which mostly involved big trees. My husband cranked up the GPS, which said something akin to “Please proceed to the highlighted planet.”

After getting hopelessly lost in the dark for two hours in Beverly Hills a few months ago, we have finally acquired a portable GPS since neither of our cars has one. Of course, one can use the GPS on a cell phone, but we prefer the bigger screen, and if we’re honest, the comforting abuse of the GPS lady. As our younger son, who has long lobbied for us to buy our own navigation system, pointedly observed, “It allows people like you to ‘boldly go where they have never gone before’ – and actually get there.” We think he’s still mad about the soccer games.

*Yoga For The Chronically Decrepit

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published January 29, 2010] © 2010

I was observing to my husband last week that there may be more yoga classes in La Jolla than in India – good news, of course, for those of us who practice yoga. Unfortunately, by dint of advanced personal decrepitude, my options are limited to about 2% of them. But “gentle yoga” classes do exist and I am proud to say that four times a week, I can be found variously at Asanas for the Ossified, Mantras for the Maimed and Disabled, Svaroopa for the Somewhat Sentient, or my personal fave, Yoga for the Flat-Out Feeble.

In my classes, the only requirement is a palpable pulse. Fortunately, nobody checks.

Three years ago a drunk driver hit me (well, actually my car) on I-5 during which a critical mass of my body parts seceded from the union. With physical therapy and then yoga, some have returned but others have never been seen again. But I continue to hope that with enough yoga, they will start responding to my postcards.

If I had one teeny weeny complaint about yoga in La Jolla, it would be that it sometimes feels like a competitive sport. I initially went to a Restorative Yoga class which the brochure described as “restful supported poses emphasizing conscious body/mind relaxation, and releasing of tension and stored-up toxins”. Since at the time, I had tons of toxins and not much use of my arms, that sounded pretty good. And it was – until the instructor asked for feedback after the first class.

Student #1: “Could you make this harder? I didn’t really feel I was pushed to my full relaxation potential.”

Student #2: “I agree. Maybe, like, make the poses inverted?”

Inga (chirpily): It was perfect for me! I wouldn’t change a thing!
Student #3: (Glares at Inga) “I totally agree with the other students. For me to continue, I’d need to get more out of it. Do you have an iyengar rope wall?”

Om vey.

I find that the classes for us older infirm folks are always the first to go.

In fact, ever since the cancellation of my Friday and Saturday classes, Chakras for Centenarians, and Poses for the Decayed and Dying, I’ve really had to step up the home practice. This, however, has its own downside. My husband, aware that yoga poses are often named for animals, loves to wander through the living room (our only carpeted space) and guess which creature the pose is supposed to be simulating.

“Hmmm,” he ponders. “The Rabid Raccoon? The Happy Hyena? Wait - I’ve got it! The Flatulent Fox!”

“Actually, it’s the Lion pose,” I said.

He frowns. “I’m sticking with the fox. But while I’m here, do the Fornicating Parakeet.”

“It’s a Downward Dog, dear.” Although I have to confess, if you have an outdoor aviary full of birds as we do, you can see where the guy is coming from.

A while later he’s back. “I don’t get why they call that the Voyeur Pose.”

“Well, because it’s actually called the Warrior Pose.”
He sighed and wandered on. “Just when I thought yoga might be interesting.”

WANTED: (Very) low-level yoga classes. ASAP.

*The Clairvoyant Computer

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published January 14, 2010] © 2010

I personally think that it’s not too much to ask that computers do what you want, not what you say.

Not long ago, I was just typing along, minding my own business, when my computer suddenly began spell checking in German, cheerfully morphing my prose into variations of Ich bin ein Berliner. I officially dispute my engineer husband’s allegations that I had anything to do with it.

My husband will try to insist that I obviously “did” something as computers are, in fact, simply machines cycling ones and zeros, and not malevolent spawns of the devil as some might maintain. But he will concede that when, for example, a tool bar suddenly disappears, I might not have done it intentionally.

“So what exactly went away?” he’ll query patiently, knowing that this conversation is as doomed as many that have gone before it.

“Well, there used to be a tool bar thingy and now it’s gone.”

“What was on it?”

“I don’t know. But I know I need it.”

My techno guy presses on. “Would you recognize the thingy bar if you saw it again?” he says patiently. He recognizes the value of not getting overly technical with me.

Now there are those who think the Undo command fixes things like this. But they would be wrong. Undo fixes the text mistake you just made microseconds ago but the second you even breathe on the machine, it’s already moved on. The Undo command has a very short attention span.

Ditto, on-line help. Totally, completely useless unless you know the technical term that some eighteen year old acned techno geek gave it. For example, I lost an entire day of work unable to edit a document until my husband came home from work and observed, “Oh, you switched to Overstrike Mode.” A keystroke and it was back to letting me insert text.

“I did not switch ANYTHING!” I whined. “Why would I switch to something that keeps me from editing and whose name I don’t even know?” I can assure you that you can’t get out of Overstrike unless you know you’re IN Overstrike.

If a software company had asked me, and inexplicably they never do, I would help them design a computer that real people, especially aging non-technical but really nice people, could actually use. The Clairvoyance Model. Your computer would get to know you, realize that those nasty keystroke commands that are the boon of techno types, but the bane of the techno challenged, should be ignored at all costs. The Clairvoyance Model would quickly learn that you have the frustration tolerance of a gnat. It would sense when you are so aggravated with your computer that you are ready to drag it out to the driveway and run it over with your car.

And that would quickly prompt it to ask, fearing for its miserable mechanical life, the question that every computer ought to have poised at the ready: “When you were last happy?” And you’d say, “Just before you ate my toolbar.” And poof. It would reappear.

*Inga's Guide to New Year's Resolutions

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published December 31, 2009] © 2009

On January 1, I always vow – in writing - that this year I will lose the forty pounds I gained on the White Wine and Mrs. Fields Depression Diet during my divorce. A minor detail, upon which we shall not dwell, was that the divorce was twenty-six years ago.

It isn’t the issue of weight per se that is so frustrating. It’s that once you get past a certain size, department stores don’t want you waddling around in there among the osteoporotic svelte. Chunker departments are invariably hidden in a corner of the third floor which you can spot from fifty yards: racks of nasty brown, navy, and black polyester slacks, and skirts with hideous floral prints in colors not found in nature. OK, so you’re thinking, “Get a grip, blimpy! Stop eating!” And you have a point. But hey, there’s more than a few of us chunkies out there and we just HATE wearing this stuff – a point that I routinely note in the feedback box at Nordstrom Oinker. (It’s actually Nordstrom Encore, but if you say it fast it comes out sounding like Oinker, which, in fact, I am convinced is the subliminal meaning in that choice of word. What, after all, does “encore” have to do with fat people? Huh? Huh?)

When my second husband and I returned after a two year foreign work assignment in 2007, I was aghast to learn that my limited shopping venues at University Town Centre had been halved: Macy Woman had decamped to Fashion Valley. It quickly became apparent that for any reasonable selection, I would be relegated to catalogs from the Talbots Butterball Collection or Lands End-Porcine. Logging on to Lands End in search of attire for the adiposely-amplified, I was happy to discover a feature called Virtual Model. You type in your assorted measurements, hair color, age, and voila, there is a virtual you standing there in your undies ready to try on clothes. You can fine-tune the virtual you to a certain extent, but I did notice that “modify My Model” did NOT include such features as “add cellulite” or “increase sag”. In fact, the My Model of me with my weight and measurements wasn’t half bad – because of course, I had the flabless thighs of an Olympic speed skater. Given this, I enjoyed trying on bikinis and even making myself different races. Catalogs, of course, want you to think you’ll look fish stick thin but in several cases, My Model talked me out of buying several ensembles in which I looked more like a beluga. Best feature of all: it even recommends what size to get. If women’s clothing sizes are non-standard, porker sizes are all over the map. Which is why ordering plus-size clothes from catalogs is a great source of exercise: walking to the post office to return them.

2010 is almost here. Should optimism prevail once again only to be drowned in a vat of luscious Buche de Noel memories? My husband suggests making my 2010 Goals list a tad more attainable. By not writing one.

It Was A Miracle

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published December 17, 2009] © 2009

In this season of magic and miracles, it seemed appropriate to share a story related to my Catholic background. (I should mention I also have Protestant and Jewish backgrounds. Really busy time of year at our place.) Anyway, several years ago, my older son and his fiancée planned an outdoor wedding at the Cove. Normally the fall weather in La Jolla is clear and beautiful but that year, it was relentlessly, dismally gray. A co-worker of mine mentioned that where she came from in Michigan, people would hang a rosary from the clothesline the week of the wedding to ensure good weather. Which was amazing since they were Methodists. No, just kidding. So I’m thinking, can’t hurt, and I brought out the box of rosaries that my grandparents had given me over the years, many dedicated to specific saints. The first problem, of course, was we’re zoned against clothes lines. So it had to come down to the concept: I could run the rosary through the dryer but that might only succeed in getting a zillion beads wedged into the heating mechanism not only creating a massive repair bill but making drying facilities unavailable to the wedding party who were staying at my home. Going instead with the outdoor concept, I hung a particular nice strand on my orange tree. The weather, however, remained grimly gray.

The afternoon before the wedding as I was about to head toward the rehearsal, I listened to the forecast for the next day: more gray. Deciding that heavy artillery was called for, I brought out the whole box of rosaries and hung them ALL on the orange tree. The gardening guys who were just arriving looked at me a little nervously. But they did adhere to my admonitions to PLEASE watch the leaf blowers!

Well, the wedding day was just as dismal as the whole last six weeks had been. Just before I left for the Cove, I went out and said to the assorted saints, “I don’t think you’re giving this your full attention.” At the Cove, a nasty dark gray cloud bank had rolled in enveloping the site in gloom. But suddenly, at 2:50 p.m., ten minutes before the ceremony, the cloud bank started to recede into the horizon in a way I had never remembered before. (OK, I don’t hang out much at the Cove but it was still pretty impressive.) As the wedding procession began, the sun broke through and it continued to be warm and gorgeous, and when it got dark, the clear sky was full of stars. Laugh it you will, but it was the only Saturday night that whole fall with anything close to such good weather.

My grandparents always impressed upon me that saints don’t work for free, particularly where cloud dispersal services are involved. In gratitude, I subsequently performed what for me was a truly heroic act toward another person that I truly didn’t want to do. But even that produced some very unexpected positive bonuses. The only annoying part is that to this day, no one will credit my efforts for the miraculously great weather. Go figure.